20 Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur for First-Timers From Shopping to Food!

20 Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur for First-Timers

A guide on what to do in Malaysia’s capital.

When you think of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, the typical image in mind is probably the iconic KLCC Twin Towers and KL Tower. However, this city actually offers much more than that! If this is your first time visiting KL, let me, a local, tell you the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur: a gorgeous city and a true cultural melting pot!

Also read: 18 Gorgeous Airbnbs in Kuala Lumpur You’ll Want to Live In

Top things to do in Kuala Lumpur

1. Walk around Petaling Street

walk around Petaling Street as one of the things to do in KL

Image credit: Dave Yap

Petaling Street has been a bustling shopping area for many years offering goods like clothes, shoes, bags, and locals’ favourite food. That is why, if you walk here today, you’ll not only find locals, but also tourists shopping for goods and hunting for delicious food. Put simply, this place is best for bargaining and filling your tummy.

Although Petaling Street carries the name ‘Chinatown in Malaysia’ and offers mostly traditional Chinese dishes, the area also has stalls like Mamak and unique cafes. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out Kwai Chai Hong that’s only a few streets away; the nostalgic design will bring you back to Chinatown in the 60s, and there will be different art installations and exhibitions here from time to time!

TripZilla Tip: For night owls and alcohol lovers, there are also many hidden bars in this area, like The Attic Bar. Come here for locally-inspired cocktails with breathtaking views at night. Another must-visit KL bar is PS150, which gets livelier as the night goes on.

Also read: 24 Hours in Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur: What to See, Do, and Eat

2. Visit the KLCC Twin Towers

Image credit: Esmonde Yong

Speaking of things to do in Kuala Lumpur, there’s a reason why KLCC Twin Towers stands as the number one attraction of the city. The towers are the second tallest building in Malaysia, and are a captivating sight to behold whether it’s morning or at night. When you’re here, be sure to visit Suria KLCC, a shopping centre under the Twin Towers. Make a pit stop at the esplanade just outside to bask in stunning views of the building. 

At around 7pm daily, the Symphony Lake Water Show — a water fountain show featuring music and colourful lights — will be showcased at the esplanade. On top of that, if you love exercising, go for a jog at the KLCC Park with lush greenery and ample amenities. The best part? All of this is yours to enjoy — for free!

3. Take a stroll at the River of Life

Image credit (L-R): Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee; Cecelia Chang

Taking a stroll along the River of Life is one of the must-do activities in KL. It was initially an urban restoration project; since its completion, it became not only one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the metropolis, but also recognised as one of the prettiest waterfronts in the world!

The KL attraction is also at the convergence of two major rivers in Klang Valley (which comprises Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Selangor): the Klang River and the Gombak River. There are riverside cafes, biking paths, and dancing fountains along the river banks. At night, the extravagant LED light transforms the place into a mesmerising indigo blue, making it very distinctive. 

4. Spend time with loved ones at Dataran Merdeka

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

The Dataran Merdeka (aka the Independence Square) is a historical landmark in Malaysia. The Independence Day Parade is held here annually; on normal nights, tourists and locals alike come here to spend time with their loved ones, making it another one of the best things to do in KL.

Plus, the square is located right beside the River of Life. Here, you can enjoy kite flying, skateboarding, or even a simple picnic. Its historical design and enchanting lights at night also make it a picture-perfect spot. 

TripZilla Tip: Avoid coming here in the morning, as the roads at this time of day are only open to vehicles and closed to pedestrians.

5. Shop til you drop at KL’s famous malls

places to go in KL: the shopping malls

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

One thing Malaysia never lacks is shopping malls. In fact, within Kuala Lumpur itself, there are already more than 10 malls! Some famous ones include Pavilion KL, Lot 10, Midvalley Megamall (The Gardens Mall), Suria KLCC, and Pavilion Bukit Jalil.

Shopping at these malls is definitely one of the activities in KL that people enjoy the most because of the range of products and services — from affordable to luxurious — offered. Not to mention, with the mouth-watering delicacies available, you won’t leave with your bags or tummy empty-handed!

Also read: 9 Best Kuala Lumpur Shopping Malls for Avid Shopaholics

6. Explore the underwater world at Aquaria KLCC

Speaking of Kuala Lumpur attractions, why not spend a day at Aquaria KLCC to explore the lovely underwater world? Besides, if you’re in KL with your partner, this KL attraction is a wonderful place for a date. 

KL’s largest oceanarium is 60,000 square feet and showcases 5,000 land-bound and aquatic creatures. If you are a certified diver, join the Dive with Shark program for the ultimate adrenaline rush of meeting a real-life shark. There is also a Sleep with Shark program specially designed for children!

7. Hop on a thrilling adventure experience

One of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur for adrenaline junkies is to hop on a thrilling adventure at the array of indoor and outdoor theme parks. For instance, District 21, Berjaya Times Square Theme Park, Superpark Malaysia, and Jump Street Asia Trampoline Park are popular indoor adventure parks.

For those who love a breath of fresh air outdoors, spend your day at Escape Petaling Jaya, Sunway Lagoon, or Gamuda Cove (more on these later!). If you don’t want to venture too far from the city centre, try going on the Tower Walk 100 at the KL Tower. This rather new attraction allows you to be 100 feet above the ground while overlooking the city from a glass platform!

Note: Some of the theme parks mentioned above are in Selangor, but they are only less than a 30-minute drive from the city centre.

Also read: 15 Outdoor Activities in Malaysia for Thrill-Seekers to Jump Into

8. Go on a date at a museum or gallery

Are you someone that appreciates art? If yes, then go on a date at the National Art Gallery. Recently reopened after the pandemic, the National Art Gallery has three storeys, no entrance fees, and free parking. There will be different art collections from time to time, and some of the exhibitions, like Gerak Rupa, greatly showcases the beauty and culture of Malaysia.

Muzium Negara (National Gallery) is another place to go for an exciting and educational afternoon. The museum houses four exhibition galleries, namely the Prehistory Gallery, Malay Kingdoms Gallery, Colonial Era Gallery and Malaysia Today — all of which feature Malaysia’s history and rich cultural diversity. The entrance fee for Malaysian citizens is RM2 (~S$0.62), and RM5 (~S$1.56) for non-Malaysian citizens.

9. Take stunning pictures for your Instagram feed

things to do in kl

Image credit (L-R): Cecelia Chang; Nazarizal Mohammad

Expect an abundance of ravishing Kuala Lumpur attractions and Instagrammable spots that will add a hint of colour to your feed. For instance, Jalan Alor is a bustling night market and is filled with colourful street art if you visit in the morning. Saloma Link Bridge, on the other hand, is a vibrant bridge that emits colourful night lights and connects the districts of Kampung Baru and the KL City Centre area.

Pusat Sains Negara (National Science Centre) and The Linc are also some famous photo-taking spots among locals. One thing all these places have in common? They’re all vibrant and spectacular, offering you a memorable, dazzling sight. 

Also read: 16 Instagrammable Places in Malaysia: Where to go, Eat and Stay in KL and Klang!

10. Visit the monument of freedom fighters

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

Visiting the Tugu Negara or the National Monument Park is one of the best things to do in KL for first-timers. Located in Perdana Botanical Garden, you’ll spot a giant bronze statue here, which is dedicated to the heroes who died fighting for the country’s freedom during World War II and Malayan Emergency. There’s also the Kuala Lumpur Cenotaph honouring the fallen soldiers.

11. Admire the beauty of Thean Hou Temple

kuala lumpur attractions

Image credit: Rosi M

Thean Hou Temple is the busiest during Chinese festive seasons like Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. People usually take part in the enshrine and worship activities, as well as family-friendly lantern parades, during these times. Nevertheless, you can still stop by the temple on regular days to admire its beauty and take pretty pictures with dazzling red and yellow lanterns. This ornate Chinese temple is dedicated to the goddesses Mazu, Shui Wei Sheng Niang, and Guan Yin, and comprises elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. 

Also read: 10 Breathtaking Temples in Southeast Asia You Might Not Know About

12. Take a stroll around Bukit Bintang

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

Probably one the most bustling areas in Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Bintang is worth spending a day at, especially if you enjoy the urban life and activities like shopping and eating. This district is home to huge shopping malls like  Lalaport and Fahrenheit88, as well as tons of eateries, like Japanese buffets, Middle-eastern restaurants, and lovely cafes. Bukit Bintang also has the latest Kuala Lumpur attractions, such as the Eslite Spectrum bookstore, and bougie night bars around Changkat

Also read: 10 Free Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur, as Recommended by Locals

13. Go cafe-hopping in KL

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

Love exploring good food or looking for Instagrammable spots? Then one of the fun things to do in KL for you would be to go on cafe hopping. There are a plethora of great cafes in Kuala Lumpur, especially in areas such as Bukit Jalil, Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), and Bukit Bintang. All you need to do is simply search for nice cafes nearby and choose one that is to your liking!

14. Remember one word: FOOD!

things to do in kuala lumpur

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

Then, don’t forget something that will make you want to come back to KL again and again: the countless delicious food. A true foodie haven, Malaysia thrives with tasty eateries at every corner. In the KL metropolis itself, there already are many must-visit food spots. For first-timers, try food hunting at the areas of Petaling Street, Pudu, Ampang, Bangsar, and Cheras.

Speaking from the heart of a true Malaysian who lives only 20 minutes away from KL, don’t miss out on locals’ favourite dishes like nasi lemak, char kuey teow, roti canai, claypot chicken rice, and hokkien mee. Besides, treat yourself to an authentic kopitiam breakfast like semi-boiled eggs with pepper and roti bakar. I guarantee that you’ll love the food so much!

Also read: Where to Travel in Malaysia: Top Destinations From Every State in the Country

Other fun things to do near Kuala Lumpur

15. Have fun at the water parks

things to do near kuala lumpur

Image credit (L-R): Sunway Lagoon Official Facebook Page; Cecelia Chang

Spending a day at the water parks is a great way to beat Malaysia’s tropical heat. There are many water theme parks near Kuala Lumpur offering fun and thrilling attractions, such as Sunway Lagoon, Wet Water World Shah Alam, and the newly opened SplashMania in Gamuda Cove

Sunway Lagoon spans 88 acres and is a massive combination of a theme park, a water park, and other adventure zones. Meanwhile, SplashMania is the country’s latest theme park, with a large ship and other exciting rides like The Plunge being its main attractions. If you’re on a tight budget, consider Wet Water World in Shah Alam, which offers a relatively cheaper entrance rate of RM33 (~S$10). 

16. Go on a day trip to Genting Highlands

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

Only approximately an hour away from the KL city centre, Genting Highlands is a holiday destination loved by both locals and tourists alike. This place is known for its chilling weather, enjoyable indoor and outdoor theme parks, and casino. You can either drive there or take a train from KL Sentral, which is the cheaper option. 

While you’re in Genting, hop on a cable car ride to Genting Skytropolis, an indoor theme park with over 20 attractions. What’s more, visit the Chin Swee Caves Temple, or shop at the Genting Premium Outlet for some great deals. I recommend spending a day or two here to fully enjoy the cool air and activities.

Also read: 10 Must-Try Restaurants in Genting Highlands

17. Climb up the Batu Caves

Image credit: Meriç Dağlı

Less than 30 minutes away from KL city centre, Batu Caves is more than just a vibrant photo-taking spot. One of the largest and most popular Kuala Lumpur attractions, it comprises a series of caves and cave temples. Batu Caves is also dedicated to Lord Murugan. Here, you will see a large Lord Murugan statue at the entrance, and colourful stairs with 272 steps leading up to the caves. 

P.S. — Since it’s a religious site, do remember to wear appropriate clothing such as long pants, long dresses, and covered shirts. And since you’ll be climbing up the stairs, remember to wear comfortable shoes as well.

18. Say hello to the animals in Zoo Negara

things to do in KL

Image credit: Yosuke Ota

For more fun things to do in Kuala Lumpur, interact with the lovely animals in the National Zoo of Malaysia, aka Zoo Negara. Situated only five kilometres away from the city centre, the zoo spans 110 acres and consists of more than 5,137 specimens from 476 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Seize this opportunity to catch a glimpse of unique animals like the marmoset, giant pandas, ruffed lemur, white Bengal tigers, and penguins. 

19. Visit Sekinchan’s paddy fields

Image credit: Fauzan Saari

Although not exactly one of the things to do in Kuala Lumpur, since Sekinchan is around an hour and a half drive from KL, this place is still extremely worth spending a day or two if you love a chill and therapeutic trip. The main attractions here include: the large green and yellow paddy fields; the Sekinchan Redang beach; the fishing village; Nam Tian Temple; and the Sekinchan Wishing Tree

Sekinchan is very popular among locals, yet often overlooked by tourists, especially those who are visiting Malaysia for the first time. I recommend relaxing activities such as paddy field-viewing, flying a kite at Sekinchan Redang, and checking out the wishing tree. You can also visit Ah Ma House, a small homey shop that sells many traditional Malaysian snacks and toys. 

20. Explore Putrajaya’s fun activities

Image credit (L-R): Ishan @seefromthesky; Cecelia Chang

Situated between Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, Putrajaya is one of Malaysia’s federal territories. It is also home to the Prime Minister’s and other ministers’ offices. Although not as famous and less crowded compared to KL, Putrajaya is still a gorgeous place with plenty to offer. 

Here, one of the must-see attractions is the Seri Gemilang Bridge: a ceremonial bridge and the main landmark of the Federal Territory when visitors enter from the south entrance. Take as many pictures as you want while relishing the stunning lakeside scenery, watch the boats pass by, or have a simple picnic. Besides, you can also opt for a boat ride via Cruise Tasik Putrajaya, or check out Kelab Tasik Putrajaya to enjoy entertaining activities like kayaking and standup paddling. 

Also read: 15 Famous Buildings in Malaysia: Where to See Architectural Attractions

There you go: a list of 20 fun things to do in Kuala Lumpur and beyond if you’re here for the first time. Here’s to hoping that you’ll enjoy your trip, and that it’ll be memorable enough for you to visit again!

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.